March 17, 2022

Photo Essay: West Hollywood's 1922 Schindler House and the Encroachment of Multi-Unit Dwellings

There are three different structures designed by Vienna-born architect Rudolph Schindler in the Los Angeles area that you can explore thanks to The MAK Center for Art and Architecture—including the Mackey Apartments in Mid City and the Fitzpatrick-Leland House in Laurel Canyon. 

But the one at Kings Road in present-day West Hollywood, where Schindler himself lived and worked for 30 years (until his death), is the one that everybody knows as the Schindler House. 

Some call Schindler's house and studio the "birthplace of Southern California modernism." Built in 1922 in the town that was then known as "Sherman," it was the first house the architect designed after striking out on his own (after working under Frank Lloyd Wright). 
He conceived it as an experiment in communal living...
...where two couples (four individuals) were meant to cohabit...

...each with their own "wing"...

...and each with their own patio...

...with room to spare for guest quarters (and a guest patio). 

Schindler and his wife Pauline initially teamed up with Clyde Chace (who also served as the house's builder) and his wife Marian. Mr. and Mrs. Chace only lived at the Schindler house for two years, moving out in 1924 to relocate to Florida.
Starting in 1925, the Schindlers shared the "King's Road House" with Schindler's friend and rival, architect Richard Neutra and his wife Dione (parents of architect Dion Neutra). The Neutras left in 1930. 
Like many of the modernist homes that were built in the decades that followed, the Schindler House seamlessly integrates the inside with the outside... a generous view of the outdoors...

...and letting plenty of light in. 

Although it's only a single story (save for the two "sleeping baskets" on the roof, accessible by a tiny interior staircase)...

...its 2,400-square-foot floor plan is sprawling and labyrinthine...

...shaped like a pinwheel and anchored in the center by a shared kitchen. 
Aside from the kitchen, it's not all that clear what the rest of the rooms were built for...
...although one room certainly appears to have been used as an office...

...and might well be where other architectural designs may have been created. 
Schindler occupied this house until his death in 1953. His wife Pauline, however, left him and the house in 1927 and took off for a while—returning about a decade later to occupy the former Chace wing (though the couple was by that point divorced). She stayed until she died in 1977. 

These days, the house is mostly empty, save for occasional art exhibitions...
...leaving the tilt-slab walls, concrete floors, and redwood beams to shine on their own. 

Although the Schindler House was an early example of Modern architecture to arrive on Kings Road, the Dodge House by Irving Gill arrived before it, in 1916—and is even said to have inspired Schindler. However, the Dodge House tragically met the wrecking ball in 1970. It was replaced by an apartment building. 

The Schindler House is landmarked on the state and national level—so one would like to think that means it's protected. But the Dodge House had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, too. And that didn't save it. 

Over the years, some of the redwood at the Schindler House had been painted over, and some flooring had been laid on top of the poured concrete. But restoration efforts were able to remove these cosmetic modifications and return the house to its original—and intended—condition. 

Now, the MAK Center has taken up residence in the former garage of the Schindler House to conduct tours, distribute literature, and sell books related to the house and its architect. 

This landmark of Modernism is no longer visible from the street or sidewalk—and it's now surrounded by apartments buildings that stretch for blocks, on both sides of the street. But for now, it's in good hands. 

The only problem? 

Nothing is sacred. At least, not in Los Angeles. 

Adapted somewhat from my article "5 Must-See Modernist Architecture Destinations in L.A." on

1 comment:

  1. A really good post; I have not been there in daylight in forever and your photos do wonderfully to connect or reconnect your readers to the place. And your message is poignant. Pulling out the old man card (again!) I visited the house on one of Professor Robert Winter's "LA on a 6-pak" bus trips 50 years ago. And Pauline Schindler was there to host us and engage the group in conversation. She asked the group what they thought about what was going on in the neighborhood even then. Some students spoke out. This was a time when Paolo Soleri's Arcosanti seemed like the path to the future and some of the group spoke of the benefits of density. Ms. Schindler was quite horrified. In the same day trip, Ms. Schindler rode with Bob Winter in his VW to the next stop, which was Neutra's VDL house. On that day Neutra's widow Dione and Schindler's widow Pauline exchanged a little kiss of recognition. Knowing the history, Robert Winter almost fainted to see that occur. Of course, in my youth, I had no idea of the sympolism - decades later Winter reminded me of what I witnessed.